Uganda is commonly referred to as “the pearl of Africa.” Its landscapes include rolling green hills, vibrant crops and lush soil. In rural Uganda, the majority of families do some type of agricultural work. Common crops include maize, potatoes, and greens. And then there is the wealth of fruits available wherever you look. In our backyard alone, grows papaya, mango, eggplant and banana. Nearby grows jackfruit, passion fruit and pineapple. The abundance of food is not limited to fruits. Goats, cows, chickens, pigs roam throughout each and every village.
So my question is….knowing all of this, why is there so much hunger in Uganda and the rest of Africa? I would estimate that 90 percent of children of under the age of 5 in Buwaiswa are malnourished. How can this be? Even after living in the village for 9 weeks now, I still am unable to answer this question. However I have noticed several characteristics that may contribute to the continuation of hunger in the country. These characteristics include the following:
1. Many villagers do not know what a “healthy meal” includes. They do not understand that eating foods like posho, maize and potatoes (all carbs) may leave you feeling full, but they do not fulfill the definition of a well-balanced meal.
2. Eggs, chicken and other sources of protein are often raised by villagers but immediately sold for profit instead of being consumed by families. Many people do not understand the importance of protein in their diets.
3. It is common in Ugandan culture for men to receive larger and better portions of food. This means that men are more likely to consume more food and the women and children in the family are left with smaller, insufficient amounts of food.
4. There are so many mouths to feed. The average number of children per family is 8, making it difficult for each family member to receive adequate nutrition.
I realize that the problem of malnutrition does not have a simple solution. However, my teammates and I worked this week to contribute to the solution this past week by holding a nutrition sensitization in our village. We also invited a local drama group to present on the issue of eating smartly. It was nice to present the issue of nutrition in a different, exciting way. Since we always attract lots of children during our meetings, the drama was also an opportunity for the younger audience members to learn something as well.
On another note, this will be my final week in Uganda. I have really enjoyed my time here and I hope to return to Uganda in the future. This experience has solidified my desire to work in Africa in the area of international development.